15 Phrases to Avoid in Academic Essay Writing

15 Phrases to Avoid in Academic Essay Writing

For those who want to level up their writing or have just gotten a paper back that either failed or barely passed, it’s to review and detect where you went wrong. We’ve compiled a list of words and phrases you should avoid while writing an essay. 

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Moving on, let’s look at what to avoid: 

1. A Bit 

This is too informal. Eliminate it from your sentence. Using this in everyday speech is acceptable, but academic writing requires you to refine your sentences and to use a specific standard when it comes to the English language. Colloquial words and expressions are typically not allowed. Here’s an example with its correct alternative:

Don’t write: He’s a bit difficult.

Do write: He’s difficult. 

2. A lot 

It is tempting to use the phrase ‘a lot’ since, as a native speaker or someone who does frequently speak English in their lives, this phrase gets used often, but this is informal. Don’t use these words. Here’s how you can correct it: 

Don’t write: There’s a lot of evidence.

Do write: There is a substantial amount of evidence. 

3. Kind of 

This one is vague and sounds wishy-washy; avoid it like the plague. Don’t include this in your essay. Example:

Don’t write: It was kind of a hint.

Do write: It was a subtle hint. 

4. You 

Avoid using the second person in essays. Use the third person instead. Here’s how to change it:

Don’t write: You can detect the increase in the chart during the aforementioned time period.

Do write: One can detect the increase in the chart during the aforementioned time period.

5. A great deal of 

This is too vague, and in academic writing, being specific is needed. So: 

Don’t write: A great deal of people were examined for this study to render quantifiable results.

Do write: 20,000 subjects were examined for this study to render quantifiable results. 

6. Always 

Avoid words that generalize a sentence since the point of academic writing and research is mainly to be objective and factual and avoid extremes and generalizations. The word ‘always’ leads to extreme claims. 

Don’t write: This has always happened in the northern territory of the region.

Do write: This phenomenon has occurred four times in the northern territory of the region. 

7. Go on

Too informal; try correcting it. Example: 

Don’t write: After that, it will go on to the next phase…

Do write: Afterwards, it will continue to the next phase…

8. I might add

Avoid the first person in essays as well. Here’s how to correct it:

Don’t write: I might add that the findings revealed that…

Do write: The findings revealed that…

9. In my opinion

This is a common set of words that many mistakenly use when writing an essay, especially those who have just started their first semester of college. As we’ve stated before, avoid the first and second-person point of view whenever crafting an academic piece. Here’s how to modify it:

Don’t write: In my opinion, the Renaissance era…

Do write: The Renaissance era…

10. Pick out 

In academic essays, use single-word verbs to describe an event or to state a claim since these are formal. Double-word verbs are mostly colloquial and too informal. Here’s an example:

Don’t write: The essay serves to pick out the…

Do write: The essay serves to highlight/emphasize…

11. In the event of

Be concise, clear, and too wordy. Words and phrases like “in the event of” make a sentence unnecessarily verbose. Modify it:

Don’t write: In the event of a meteorite crashing…

Do write: A meteorite crashing… 

12. Never 

Similar to why we shouldn’t use ‘always’ in scholar papers, ‘never’ is also another word to avoid since it leads to extreme claims, and we’re trying to be objective.

Don’t write: It never occurred…

Do write: It has not occurred…

Additional Phrases To Avoid 

1. Clichés

Clichés might carry truth, but it makes your essay look less credible and doesn’t fit into the standards of academic writing. So try not to use them on you, even though some of them make a point. Use your own words and back them up with evidence from credible sources, and you’ll score points for originality and credibility. 

2.  Contractions

Using contractions is acceptable in other types of writing and context, but contractions should not be used in scholarly writing and scientific writing. We know the rules make everything rigid, but we don’t make them up. You can potentially lose points if you use them and the professor catches it while reviewing your paper. 

So, let’s keep in mind to:

  • Don’t use ‘don’t;’ write ‘do not’
  • Do not write ‘can’t,’ but write ‘cannot’
  • Do not write ‘isn’t,’ but write ‘is not’
  • Passive Voice 

To avoid the passive voice, be sure that the subject of your sentence is doing the action. Here are some examples:

  • Passive voice: The research was done in 2022.

Active voice: The researchers conducted the study in 2022.

  • Passive voice: A letter was written by the president…

Active voice: The president wrote a letter…

Final Thoughts

There are many rules when it comes to academic writing, so it’s best to learn them from scratch in order to avoid making mistakes along the way. While this is discouraging and perhaps irritating at times, focus on finding topics that actually interest you or choose topics that are deep and impactful. 

Focus your energy on doing research and writing in order to give value to your chosen topic; this will make the time writing it better even as you follow the rules.